Berlin / Washington (dpa) – Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University on the sidelines of her visit to Washington. This was announced by government spokesman Steffen Seibert in Berlin on Monday.
It is already the 18th corresponding award for Merkel. The focus of Thursday’s trip will be the exchange with new US President Joe Biden. Some 120 politicians, artists and journalists wrote an open letter to Merkel to call on Biden for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are hosting a dinner at the White House in honor of the chancellor, who will leave office after the general election in September. Merkel’s husband Joachim Sauer will also attend the dinner, Seibert said. A bilateral discussion, an extensive meeting and a joint press conference by Merkel and Biden are scheduled for that. Merkel is the first European head of government to be received by Biden in the White House since taking office in January. Seibert left open whether there will be a meeting between the Chancellor and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden wants to restore relations with Germany, which were under severe strain under his predecessor Donald Trump. The president’s weekly program said Merkel’s working visit “will reaffirm deep and lasting bilateral relations between the United States and Germany.” Merkel was last at the White House in April 2018, when Trump was president.
Another topic is the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline
According to the White House, the controversial German-Russian pipeline Nord Stream 2 will also be discussed during the meeting with Merkel. Washington and Berlin are trying to find a compromise. “We still believe it’s a bad deal that causes global problems,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday.
The German government confirmed that Ukraine must remain a transit country for gas from Russia regardless of Nord Stream 2. Prior to Merkel’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj on Monday night, Seibert referred to the conclusion of the Ukraine-Russia gas deal. “This sets the course,” he said. The contract runs until the end of 2024 and stipulates that the parties will consider extending this contract until 2034.
In addition, Merkel’s meeting with Biden will likely cover climate change, the fight against the corona pandemic, relations with China and Russia, and a host of other topics.
The DPA’s open letter to Merkel on the Assange case reads: “We sincerely ask that you help build bridges in the Julian Assange case.” The chancellor must make clear “how important it is, in the interests of defending press freedom, to drop the lawsuit against the Wikileaks founder so that his health can freely recover with his family.” Dealing with Assange is “incompatible with the rule of law, the appalling conditions in the prison are a humanitarian scandal”. Given Assange’s threatening health condition, urgent action is needed.
Seibert said the federal government takes no stance on open letters — regardless of sender or subject. The government spokesperson emphasized that the government spokesperson emphasized that there was every confidence that the rule of law principles and guarantees in Britain would be guaranteed.
Writing between parties
Signatories to the letter to Merkel, initiated by investigative journalist and writer Günter Wallraff, include SPD leader Norbert Walter-Borjans and Greens leader Robert Habeck, leftist faction leaders Amira Mohamed Ali and Dietmar Bartsch, Greens faction leader Katrin Göring – Eckardt and members of the CDU, SPD, FDP, Left and Greens. Also several ex-ministers such as Sigmar Gabriel (SPD), Gerhart Baum (FDP), Oskar Lafontaine (Linke), the writer Elfriede Jelinek, the editor of the women’s magazine “Emma”, Alice Schwarzer, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, have signed the letter. Assange recently celebrated his 50th birthday at HMP Belmarsh maximum security prison in London.
The US judiciary accuses Assange, along with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, of stealing classified material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of a large number of diplomatic telegrams and publishing them on the Internet platform Wikileaks. This put the lives of American informants in danger in many countries. To the American investigators, Assange is a spy, they demand his extradition. However, his supporters see him as an investigative journalist. Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012 before being extradited. There he was granted asylum – until the wind turned in the South American country. In 2019, the whole world could watch as Assange was dragged out of the embassy despite fierce resistance.